Guiding others to the best in the west central Minnesota waters
BASS LAKE -- Most of us work for a living, but there are a few among us smart enough to fish.
Bruce Hoaglund is one of the smart ones.
A retired Willmar public schools instructor, Hoaglund, 68, is one of a handful of fishing guides operating in this area. It's not a full-time gig for him, nor would he want it to be. Fishing would lose its "spark" if it turned into a job, he explained.
The real spark comes in putting others on fish.
"When you're catching fish and they're having fun, there's nothing better,'' said Hoaglund.
He's also hard pressed to name a place better to do it than close to home.
"Lots of time, quite frankly, the best fishing is right where you live,'' said Hoaglund. "You get to know the area and you get to know the lakes and where to fish, and you have confidence in them.''
The Kandiyohi County lakes area is blessed with lots of fishing waters worthy of that confidence. There are 35 lakes within 35 miles of his home on Bass Lake, offering fishing worthy of introducing to his clients, he said.
He knows all the obvious fishing destinations well, like Green Lake, but loves most what he calls the "sleeper lakes'' that others tend to overlook. And, of course, he never reveals the identity of his true favorites.
"Lard Lake,'' he calls these water bodies.
This is his fourth season as a guide, but his 41st season enjoying the waters close to home.
He moved to the area for his teaching career, but always balanced work with weekend and evening outings to fish.
The Mankato native said he grew up an avid angler, thanks to a father and grandfather who sat at dock's edge and introduced him to the joys of fishing at a young age.
He's now come full circle as a father and grandfather. He's at the point in his fishing where he has more fun watching someone else catch the fish, especially when it is his grandchildren or customers.
Hoaglund is known best for his passion for largemouth and smallmouth bass, but he is anything but a one-fish kind of guy. He loves the silent pursuit of trout in cold water streams, and he's chased muskies, northern pike and walleye all the way to the lakes of northern Minnesota and well into Canada.
He's also led many clients to walleye and northern pike in the local waters.
Some of his customers are looking for trophies, and he obliges. Some want to learn how to fish certain lakes.
Many others are mainly interested in just having some action. When they have children with them, watching bobbers go kerplunk as sunfish or crappies attack makes for the perfect outing.
Most of his guests come from outside the area. In just four years time he's already introduced people from 12 different states to the local waters. They've come from states as far away as Maine and Massachusetts, but more often from neighboring states such as Iowa.
Word of mouth, recommendations from the local bait shop owners and other area guides, often steer the guests to him. He's seeing lots of repeat customers now.
Some first timers come with frayed line and equipment that looks as if it's been bought and sold at more than a few garage sales. Others are well geared.
It doesn't matter. Hoaglund has all the gear his guests need. And, he is a teacher first of all.
No outing is complete until he's offered a few lessons on the art of fishing and what equipment works best.
He urges catch-and-release fishing, and he keeps a camera and measuring tape always at hand in his boat. The measurements and photos make possible life-like replicas of the trophy fish, which are returned to the water.
Hoaglund guides in a deep hulled and comfortable, 380C Ranger fishing series boat with a Mercury 100. The fire power is only to get started. Most of the fishing day is spent at a casual pace, the whirr of the electric trolling motor the only constant as the boat works the shallow areas of local lakes.
If the fish aren't biting, Hoaglund has no qualms about taking his guests to another destination. If the fish still won't cooperate, he offers his guests a one-half day return trip for free.
He ranks more than 90 percent of the outings as "successes'' based on the fish his clients hoist from the waters. It's a 100 percent success rate if you consider the pleasure of being out on the water and the conversations that ensue. In four years of guiding, Hoaglund said he's never had anything but a good time with the people he has guided.
And when he's not guiding?
He's always looking for a trophy to beat his own. To date, he's caught and released a 9-pound, 12-ounce walleye; a 6-pound, 12-ounce largemouth bass; a 4-pound, 15-ounce smallmouth bass; and a 16-pound northern pike.
The northern pike came while he was guiding, and his hosts insisted he throw in a line too. It took him only three casts.
"I was kind of excited,'' he said.
Now that's what you call working smart.